In the fall of 1972, the board of trustees of Western Baptist College was informed of an idea circulating around campus.
“It is reported that the student body is considering a prayer chapel, which would be located on the terrace to the north of Van Gilder Hall,” stated documents discovered by Steve Hunt, vice president of marketing, while he was perusing through the minutes of the old Board of Trustees meetings.
But for reasons unknown, the prayer chapel never became a physical reality for the students of that decade. Nancy Hedberg, vice president for student life, believed it could have been due to obstacles that come with projects like these.
“A lack of funds, a lack of time, discouragement, delays and skepticism,” she said.
But 38 years later, that era’s dream of a prayer chapel has come to fruition, thanks to the current students, administration, and alumni.
Although the building is now completed, the chapel’s construction was anything but a straight road. It happened in “fits and starts,” according to Hedberg, and was a long drawn out process.
The building project was first instigated in the spring of 2008 by students who approached Hedberg about the need for a building on campus dedicated entirely to prayer. Liking the idea, Hedberg mentioned it to Hunt, who agreed.
Soon after, a prayer chapel project committee of students and administration was formed. Meetings occurred regularly and plans were set in motion.
The first spot they chose for the construction was just east of the Academic Center on a terrace. They had begun breaking ground, but halted after realizing the high cost of getting electricity to the building. A change of location was needed.
A new and much more ideal site was found in an area not far from the walkway that leads to the Davidson and Balyo Residence Halls. Coincidentally, it was not far from the same location that was considered 38 years ago.
After finalizing the spot, the next step was figuring out who could orchestrate the actual construction and the directing of the on-site workforce. Hedberg made a few calls and Tim Dixon, from the class of ’92, responded to her request.
Ironically, Dixon’s daytime job is being a demolition contractor.
“I tear things down,” he said. But for this project he would only construct and create, not destroy.
Dixon spent what he estimated to be 300 hours of volunteer time on the chapel project.
During that entire time, he either worked on it by himself or had volunteer help from students and college staff.
He was especially grateful for the help of sophomores Cameron Elliott and Anthony Darling.
“Those were kids I could line up and show them what to do and come back later and see it done,” Dixon said.
Even with Dixon managing the constructing and donating salvaged material from his daytime projects, the committee still had to deal with other costs like windows and framing materials. To answer this need, they began fundraising in a variety of ways. They received money from donation banks stationed around campus, from offerings during parents’ weekend, from the Woman to Woman retreat in February and from individual donations.
In addition to money, materials were given to the chapel. The New Life Church of the Nazarene in Dallas donated two large used pews, which Ediger Church Furniture reupholstered and resized to fit the small chapel. The ministry department of Corban contributed a large world map.
One unique donation came from the hands of the students around campus. Several handmade crosses have been hung inside the chapel, which Hedberg says are a way for students “to use their creativity, add to the worshipful atmosphere, and remind everyone of how much God loves us.”
Hunt’s planning, Hedberg’s organizing, Dixon’s laboring, students volunteering and people financially donating gives good cause to celebrate the human achievement of teamwork and perseverance.
But Hedberg says it is not about the project itself; instead it is about what the chapel will bring to campus.
“I hope it will be a place in which people can sense God’s presence in an unusual way,” she said, “and that it will be a place for quietness, solitude, and reflection.”